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Hepatitis C: Diet and Exercise

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Contrary to the claims of many books and web sites, there's no such thing as a proven hepatitis C diet or exercise regimen. But while you have to be wary of any programs promising cures, you should eat right and get exercise.

"There's no hard data about exercise or eating right with hepatitis C, but I always tell people to do it," says David Thomas, MD, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Exercise can make them feel better, especially with depression caused by treatment."

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Eating Right With Hepatitis C

What should you be eating if you have hepatitis C? The same diet everyone should eat for good health. "Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and cut back on fats and sugars," says Alan Franciscus, executive director of the Hepatitis C Support Project in San Francisco. If you want to try a more unorthodox diet, check it out with your doctor first. Some people with hepatitis C find that the disease makes them less hungry. If this happens to you, try eating smaller meals more frequently.

Exercise With Hepatitis C

If you have hepatitis C, exercise can make you feel stronger, and it can also help alleviate depression caused by treatment with pegylated interferon, says Franciscus. Of course, Franciscus admits that if you're coping with hepatitis C, hopping on a treadmill may be the last thing you feel like doing.

"One of the main symptoms of hepatitis C is fatigue," Franciscus says. "So people just feel wiped out and the idea that exercise will help doesn't seem to make sense. But it really does make a difference for a lot of people with the disease."

Thomas agrees. "I think exercise is terrific for people with hepatitis C," he tells WebMD.

Alcohol and Hepatitis C

Alcohol can damage the liver on its own, and it's especially dangerous for people with hepatitis C. However, doctors debate about whether you need to stop drinking or just cut down.

"Some doctors say that you should cut out all alcohol," says Howard J. Worman, MD, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. "I personally feel that just limiting it is OK in some cases. If you want to have a glass of wine with a nice dinner, or a beer at a ballgame, I think that's all right." However, he stresses that no one with hepatitis C should be drinking regularly.

Ask your doctor whether you should drink alcohol and, if so, how much is safe.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 23, 2014
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